Ogdensburg ups its offer to retirement-eligible city firefighters

Ogdensburg ups its offer to retirement-eligible city firefighters
Ogdensburg Fire Department (Source: WWNY)

OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - The city of Ogdensburg is upping its offer to pay firefighters and incentive to retired.

In a letter shared with media, city manager Stephen Jellie told firefighters union president Jason Bouchard that the city is willing to pay $25,000 to any eligible firefighter who retires by the end of the year.

The union has already rejected the city’s offer of $20,000.

This comes as the city’s budget calls for laying off seven firefighters in 2021.

In a phone interview, Jellie said about 10 firefighters are eligible for the incentive.

“I certainly hope that they’re interested in this and hopefully they certainly start to take serious of our offers to move forward in a progressive and collective manner,” he said. There’s certainly nothing nefarious about these offers.”

He said the city needs to get fire department staffing down to a level it can afford and it would prefer to do it without layoffs.

When it rejected the $20,000 incentive earlier this month, the union said it didn’t consider the offer genuine and that it did not give its members enough time to make a decision “that will alter the course of their lives going forward.”

On Thursday, Jason Bouchard, Ogdensburg firefighter’s union president, reiterated that sentiment.

Bouchard wrote to 7 News, “For him (City Manager Jellie) to message me on Christmas Eve, with a one week deadline to sell this coercive “offer” to our members is another cold hearted effort by the city to blame our union for the cuts they have voted on.”

Bouchard says the real issue is a lack of trust in the city, which Bouchard says has violated the firefighter’s contract, by voting for a budget that includes cuts to manpower.

“Other than the $5,000 monetary increase, nothing has changed, as none of our original concerns were met,” Bouchard wrote. “We will look into the offer, but we still feel it is illegitimate.”

“I don’t know why there’d be any reason for them to believe that these offers are anything but genuine,” Jellie said Thursday, “and the city will certainly fulfill any promises that it makes.”

Those promises, Jellie said, wouldn’t be empty.

“These incentives would have to be given to them, approved to them, before we expect them to retire,” Jellie said. “This isn’t a matter of saying, ‘hey, retire and see if we send you a $25,000 check later.’”

Copyright 2020 WWNY. All rights reserved.